Careers: Beyond the tried and tested
Think of the best cities in the world. New York, London, Cairo, Dubai, Mumbai…
If you ponder over what makes these places the best to be in, sooner or later you will end up ascribing such attributes as cultural diversity, variety of palate and welcoming locals, to your favorite cities’ credentials. What sets these cities apart from the countless others in the world?
The best cities are defined by the variety of experiences they have to offer; experiences that themselves evolve out of the occupants’ lives – locals, immigrants, even emigrants. Historically, cities around trade routes, ports, business centers and cultural hubs have been the melting pots of human experience and that’s what makes them exhilarating places to be at.
Careers are no different.
The recipe for a great city is probably the best argument for a career perfected outside offices. Vocation and avocation aren’t mutually exclusive today. Your career, a field of major personal endeavor, is touched by how you enrich your life.
Here’s an argument that is steadily gaining ground: Individuals are the sum of much that doesn’t happen in office confines. Everything that you do adds to your collective personality. The realization that personal growth and career growth are interlinked is growing. Combined with an HR focus on lateral experience rather than linear experience, there is a compelling case for enriching one’s career with a wealth of other experiences.
One of the first to acknowledge the need to live many experiences and to map out a unique career was Steve Jobs, who went on record to say, “A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one understands of the human experience, the better design we will have.”
Today, professionals are discovering their own routes to enriching their profiles.
• The formal route
On average, every professional makes 3 changes in occupation during the course of his/her career. Take the example of Jeff Bozos, Founder, President, CEO and Chairman of the board at Amazon.com. He started his career as a young mechanic then went on to work in different fields like computer science, international trade and banking. He met voracious readers in all fields and chose to capitalize on what he learnt from his experience – the world needs a place to buy books, always.
Exposure to different industries and experience in diverse fields is a potential resource, rich with information and understanding. Turn it to your advantage in more ways than one.
• The learning route
Structured learning through management development programmes or, even, a sabbatical brings a different value proposition. Executive education in India and abroad is finding plenty of takers. Distance education has added unprecedented flexibility to choices in executive learning.
Finally, many executives are reversing the opportunity, returning to academia as visiting faculty, or for a teaching stint in their area of expertise. The return to academic life is enriching and satisfying, and brings the chance to interact with young, bright minds and challenge conventional ideas.
• The personal route
What you do after hours has a way of opening facets of yourself. Whether you are into travel, skydiving, gourmet cooking, social networking or social responsibility; these are no longer indulgences. They can be the X-factor that make the difference between success and failure in an interview or add to the impact you have in your current role. The opportunities for collaboration and mutual growth are much greater in today’s world. Social networking, blogging or NGO collaboration are just some ways to apply yourself in a specific field and acquire skills that are truly universal in nature.
Ishani Chattopadhyay, an established executive coach who encourages executives to leverage multiple facets of their personality in their career adds, “An example of leveraging a personal interest would be someone who is interested in education who decides to volunteer with the many established and well known not-for-profits and programs available in India. This is a well established trend abroad where lots of professionals take a gap year and volunteer their time to an organization or cause. It’s not about the personal interest or passion you have but what you really do with it. “ She believes that In India volunteerism or social impact has not become mainstream and could be a real differentiator.
There are many skills that need to be learnt for success in a career. Your professional interactions will give you opportunity for some but you can expand your scope by tapping into many more fields of experience.
It’s time to look at an educational getaway or a career transition. Or pick one interest and just begin with verve.
“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” – Aristotle